Each summer, city dwellers of all stripes—sunbathing nonnas, bronzed Adonises, giddy teens—flock to this urban oasis, making it one of the top people-watching spots in town. Not to mention one of the best bargains: A season pass costs a mere $20. In other words, a whole lot less than a trip to the Cape. 475 Commercial St., Boston, MA 02109, boston.gov/community-centers.
Sipping wine on a blanket by the cranberry bogs is so much more relaxing than sitting in traffic on the Bourne Bridge, isn’t it? With three restaurants, easy access to two golf courses, and a spa, the South Shore’s version of a turreted French manor is a welcome respite before the Cape Cod fray. plymouth.mirbeau.com.
Hopple Popple founder Linda Matzkin and her daughter Abby Matzkin Gordon have the experience, eye for design, and romantic natures—not to mention respect for spending limits—to fashion truly dreamy weddings, be they barefoot-on-the-Cape or candlelight-at-the-Ritz affairs. 284 California St., Newton, MA 2158, hopplepopple.com.
Not every day on the Cape can be sunny and 72 degrees (shocking, we know). When the weather's lousy, head to this multipurpose Mashpee complex, which opened this past winter. There's bowling, a variety of brick-oven pizzas, and a huge selection of New England brews. If the clouds part, hit the outdoor bar for bocce and live music. 9 Greene St., Mashpee, MA lanesbowlandbistro.com.
Folks who come to this beloved local watering hole enjoy its outdoor patio and live music on weekends, and get an added bonus: They can walk into the adjoining restaurant, 65 Main, and pair the town's best burger with, say, a pint from Cape Ann Brewing Company. 65 Main St., Gloucester, MA dogbarcapeann.com.
Some might scoff that Matt Murphy's perennially wins this award because, well, there aren't exactly Irish restaurants on every corner of this largely Irish town. That probably just means they haven't tasted the sausage, beans, and mashed potatoes with a hint of anise. Or sipped a perfect pint of Guinness while devouring fish and chips wrapped in the morning paper and accompanied by chunky, homemade ketchup. This Brookline Village hideaway is still an unadorned pub experience: good people (Jason Waddleton is one of the friendliest waiters in the Boston area), live seisiuns, or sessions of traditional Irish music, and food that's proud to call itself—dare we call it—Irish cuisine. 14 Harvard St., Brookline Village, MA mattmurphyspub.com/.
A local stalwart for more than 40 years, Leather World helps us handle our hauls, supplying a polycarbonate spinner to withstand the perils of the TSA, a leather duffel perfect for that weekend jaunt down to the Cape, and a trim briefcase for the daily commute to and from the office. Plus, all of its locations offer one line of embossing at no additional cost. 30 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA shopleatherworld.com.
Front Street's bar (260 Berkeley St., Boston) is a quiet, secure haven, protected by Horgan. A five-year veteran of the bartending wars of Boston and Cape Cod, Horgan knows his regulars and what they drink, and he protects their privacy. "This isn't a pickup bar," Horgan says. "People come here to relax. Single women come in by themselves and trust me to see they're left alone. People know that no one will bother them here." Front Street, 260 Berkely St., Boston, MA .
As the only waterfront restaurant in town, the Orleans Inn has reason to brag. But humble's the default setting at this 132-year-old spot above Town Cove, which has gone through many an incarnation (boarding house, supply store) to reach its current status as the top place to gaze and graze on the Cape, with a dining room serving up local seafood with stirring vistas. 3 Old Country Rd., Orleans, MA 2653, orleansinn.com.
With its glossy, red shingles and gabled roofs, the Coonamessett Inn is the epitome of old Cape Cod, a perfect setting for high-style weddings and anniversaries alike. But you needn't wait for a special occasion: Sunday brunch features an array of delicious classics, from make-your-own omelets and baked salmon with special weekly sauces like beurre blanc or citrus, melon, and mango, to oversized fruit plates and gorgeous renditions of sweet favorites like chocolate mousse and carrot cake. 311 Gifford St., Falmouth, MA 2540, capecodrestaurants.org.
This gorgeously untarnished world of sweeping dunes and fresh Atlantic air is about as idyllic as nature gets. That may seem to be true of many Cape shorelines, but this one stands out from others for its spectacular and endless stretches of perfectly undisturbed white sand. With nary a touch of human architecture for miles, this slip of coast also provides a view of the sunrise that approaches the sublime. Rte. 6, Truro, MA .
Manhattan meets Cape Cod at this trendy Hyannis bistro and raw bar. The oysters—prepared naked or topped with a hint of cocktail sauce, a splash of Absolut Peppar vodka, or sour cream and caviar—are beyond divine. The littleneck clams are tiny tastes of the sea. And the melt-in-your-mouth beef carpaccio appetizer and a host of tempting desserts round out a fun, fresh menu. 20 Independence Dr., Hyannis, MA nakedoyster.com/.
A top-notch brunch spot—on a tarmac? It's long been a reality in Cape Cod, where chef Brian Erskine turns out fluffy lemon-ricotta pancakes and hearty red-flannel hash from a kitchen at the Chatham Municipal Airport. Summer weekends find the place jam-packed, but you can pass the wait time on the second-floor deck watching the biplanes coming and going. 240 George Ryder Rd., Chatham, MA 2633, hangarbcapecod.com.
We aren't ones to cry over spilt milk, as our floors can attest; our couch has more hair on it than our cat. Without a speck of judgment, the Maids clean up our act month after month, dusting baseboards, degriming showers, and all but eliminating any traces of pet (except for, of course, the pet itself). They're quick, well priced, and unobtrusive: Aside from the preternatural sparkle and neatly triangled toilet paper, you'd never know they'd been there. maids.com.
Refreshingly chic silhouettes from Olian, Ripe, Paper Denim, and Inca Mama are enough to recommend Helena's. So are the racks of nonmaternity styles, which include tees by Johnny Was and trapeze tops by Tulle that can be repurposed by those with baby bumps (instantly dressing up, say, a pair of Gap Maternity stretch pants). What puts Helena's over the top, however, is its location, flanked by like-minded businesses Wild Child (see above) and Isis Maternity. In one fell swoop, moms-to-be can purchase a come-hither cocktail dress, sign up for a prenatal yoga class, and test-drive the stroller of the moment. 397 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, MA 2474, .